An 8-Week Relaxation Program Consisting of Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Stress and Attenuate Stress-Driven Eating

Tasmiah Masih, James A Dimmock, Elissa Epel, Kym J Guelfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Stress is often associated with the intake of energy-dense palatable foods. This trial examined the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of an 8-week worksite-based relaxation intervention to address psychological stress and unhealthy food intake.

METHODS: Thirty-six men and women were exposed to an acute stressor, while physiological and psychological responses were assessed, prior to being offered a test meal. Participants were then randomised to a relaxation intervention (RELAX; face-to-face classes and daily home practice of progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness meditation), or a wait-list control (CON). All measures were repeated after the intervention.

RESULTS: Intervention compliance was high (80% ± 19% face-to-face; 79% ± 18% home practice), and each session acutely reduced perceived stress (p < .001) and increased relaxation (p < .001). After 8 weeks, trait mindfulness was increased (p = .025), along with reduced tension (p = .013) and increased relaxation (p < .05) post-acute stressor in the intervention group. There was no effect of the intervention on palatable eating, cravings, or energy intake at a laboratory test meal, with small associated effect sizes (d = 0.01-0.3).

CONCLUSIONS: The program studied here is feasible and sessions transiently reduce perceived stress and improve mindfulness; however, the program may not influence the physiological response to an acute stressor or appetite and eating variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-211
Number of pages24
JournalApplied Psychology: Health and Well-Being
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date1 Oct 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

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